Q&A with Matt Furness
1. What’s your favourite way to answer the question ‘what do you do?’
I find that I answer that question differently each time I’m asked it. I guess one of the most basic and best ways of explaining it is that I draw upon psychology to help organisations to improve their performance and their people’s working lives.
2. What is your approach to finding a work-life balance?
Being clear about the various ‘pillars’ that sustain me and my well-being, then considering where I’m spending my time with relation to these. My pillars include things like my family, my friends, my work, my cricket and so on. If I find myself spending too much or not enough time on any one of these pillars, I’ll try to take steps to address the imbalance.
3. Describe in three words what makes a good leader
Values-driven, empathy, charisma.
4. If you could remote-work from any country in the world, where would it be?
Although it’s perhaps boring to stay within Europe, I think I’d find it relaxing to work in the South of Italy. I feel the culture and setting could help me to slow down and avoid getting too caught up in the busyness of working life.
5. Which culture, philosophy, or way of life - that is different to yours - do you most admire?
I think Stoicism is an admirable philosophical approach that I don’t fully adhere to. Certain Stoics argue your personal values should not be compromised at any cost, regardless of the circumstances. While this is something that’s inevitably admirable in theory, I don’t think it’s the best way to live your life in practice. If you’re familiar with the tragic story of Kalief Browder, this is a perfect example of how admirable it can be to stick rigidly to your beliefs or values yet the disastrous outcomes that can come with it.
6. Which area of your consulting work do you find the most interesting, and why?
What I love about my work is that I get involved in all sorts of projects. However, if I had to say one particular type of consulting, I would probably say it’s our ‘culture capture’ process. In this, we seek to understand our clients’ culture at various levels including what’s consciously espoused or articulated by senior leaders, what’s experienced by employees day-to-day, and the underpinning values or assumptions at play. I find it a genuinely fascinating and incredibly worthwhile process.
7. What are the top 3 personal skills that leaders need to possess, or develop, to lead their organisation into the future?
For me, leaders need to be open-minded to alternative ways of thinking and doing things, constantly adapting their approach as a result. They also need to tightly hold, clearly communicate and visibly role model their personal or organisational values. Finally, they need to constantly show genuine humility and empathy for their employees, treating every individual with respect regardless of their level or status.
8. If you could go back in time and give your 16-year-old self advice, what would it be?
“In this life you can be oh so smart or oh so pleasant. For years I was smart but I recommend pleasant. Being smart can make you rich and bring respect and reverence, but the rewards of being pleasant are far more incandescent.”
9. If you were stranded on a desert island and were only allowed three items, what would they be and why?
A phone (ideally with unlimited battery and signal) so I could keep in contact with my nearest and dearest. Insect spray as getting bitten by bugs is absolutely not a way I’d like to live. Oh and maybe a knife for protection, hunting and cutting coconuts!
10. What’s the number one thing you want to accomplish during your time on Earth?
What a big question to finish on. I guess the noble answer would be something along the lines of ‘to leave the world in a better state than I entered it’. But, in truth, I guess I’d probably just say that I want to live by the motto that I referenced in my last Consultant Spotlight blog: “Il faut motter”.